Solanum ptychanthum (Black Nightshade)

Plant Info
Also known as: Eastern Black Nightshade, West Indian Nightshade
Genus:Solanum
Family:Solanaceae (Potato)
Life cycle:annual
Origin:native
Status:
  • Weedy
Habitat:part shade, sun; disturbed soil; yards, woodland edges, roadsides, gravel pits, old fields, waste areas
Bloom season:June - September
Plant height:10 to 30 inches
Wetland Indicator Status:GP: FACU MW: FACU NCNE: FACU
MN county distribution (click map to enlarge):Minnesota county distribution map
National distribution (click map to enlarge):National distribution map

Pick an image for a larger view. See the glossary for icon descriptions.

Detailed Information

Flower: Flower shape: 5-petals

[photo of flowers] Small clusters of stalked flowers scattered along branching stems (not always at a leaf node), the flower stalks all mostly attached at the same point (umbellate), at the tip of the cluster's stalk. Flowers are ¼ to 1/3 inch across, star-shaped with 5 petals fused at the base, usually white, sometimes violet, and typically green at the base. Petals are spreading or curled back. In the center is a column of 5 yellow stamens surrounding a green style just visible at the tip of the column. The calyx is star-shaped with 5 triangular lobes and sparsely short-hairy.

Leaves and stems: Leaf attachment: alternate Leaf type: simple

[photo of leaves] Leaves are thin, alternate, 1 to 3 inches long, up to 2 inches wide, generally egg-shaped, pointed at the tip, rounded or wedge-shaped at the base, on a winged stalk. Edges are often wavy, and toothless or with a few large, blunt teeth. Surfaces are mostly sparsely hairy, more densely so on major veins on the underside.

[purplish leaf underside] The lower leaf surface may be light green or purple tinged. Stems are heavily branched, round to somewhat angled, hairless or sparsely hairy, and erect to sprawling.

Fruit: Fruit type: berry/drupe

[photo of fruit] Fruit is a ¼ to 1/3-inch round berry that ripens to shiny black.

Notes:

This native, weedy species was once listed as a county-level noxious weed and is part of the “Black Nightshade complex”, a group of related plants with very similar characteristics. The three species of concern here are: Solanum americanum, Solanum nigrum and Solanum ptychanthum. Some references treat these as synonyms of the same species, others as separate species, some as native, others as introduced or adventive. The DNR lists the species present in MN as S. nigrum var. virginicum, but we are following Michigan Flora's lead on this one and calling it S. ptychanthum. S. nigrum is more consistently considered a European introduction that is mostly present on the North American east and west coasts; its flower clusters are a more typical raceme (not umbellate) and flowers have a very small calyx, most noticeable on the fruit. S. americanum is a more southern native species whose unripe berries are speckled white, and does not have any purple tinged leaves. We don't believe the purple tinged leaves are a reliable trait in the field, however, since we had some difficulty finding any images showing this characteristic—nearly all of our own leaf images showed a green underside. Overall, Black Nightshade is also very similar to Hairy Nightshade (S. physalifolium), which is, as the common name suggests, densely hairy all over where Black Nightshade is sparsely hairy at best.

Please visit our sponsors

  • Wild Ones Twin Cities Chapter

Where to buy native seed and plants ↓

Map of native plant purveyors in the upper midwest

  • Morning Sky Greenery - Native Prairie Plants
  • Minnesota Native Landscapes - Your Ecological Problem Solvers
  • Natural Shore Technologies - Using science to improve land and water
  • Itasca Ladyslipper Farm - Native orchids, container grown
  • Prairie Restorations - Bringing people together with the land

More photos

Photos by K. Chayka and Peter M. Dziuk taken in Ramsey County.

Comments

Have you seen this plant in Minnesota, or have any other comments about it?

Posted by: someone - Cottage Grove
on: 2015-07-26 12:13:23

We have them here they grow on the fence by the shade of all the neighbors trees. In Fridley a friend found then in her garden.

Posted by: BW - Otsego
on: 2016-08-23 20:47:10

Growing outside the backdoor at my current place of employment between cement and blacktop in Champlin and planted pine areas in Uncas Dunes SNA.

Posted by: Shanna - Corcoran
on: 2017-07-08 14:37:15

I have this plant, but with purple flowers on it, growing along a fence in my yard. Is this something I need to get rid of? I'm not worried about anyone ingesting, but wondering if it's anything that might affect someone with skin contact?

Posted by: Laura - Columbia Heights, MN
on: 2017-08-24 07:31:16

Just discovered these have overtaken my garden. I planted a bunch of new plants this year thought this was perhaps a weird bean or something until I noticed the berries. It has out grown everything else in my garden! Looking online-- I found recipes with the berries, so hope to use the berries for jelly or something....

Posted by: Kristina K - Excelsior
on: 2017-09-30 20:20:37

These just started popping up in my planters.

Posted by: Johannes N - Moorhead
on: 2017-10-02 19:41:20

Have one plant growing smack dab in the middle of my front lawn. No idea how it got there. Have some bittersweet nightshade growing in my back yard too.

Post a comment

Note: All comments are moderated before posting to keep the riff-raff out. An email address is required, but will not be posted—it will only be used for information exchange between the 2 of us (if needed) and will never be given to a 3rd party without your express permission.

For info on subjects other than plant identification (gardening, invasive species control, edible plants, etc.), please check the links and invasive species pages for additional resources.



(required)




Note: Comments or information about plants outside of Minnesota and neighboring states may not be posted because Id like to keep the focus of this web site centered on Minnesota. Thanks for your understanding.